If you fail to plan, your estate can and will likely end up in probate. Probate is a court-supervised process for transferring a person’s assets upon their death. If the deceased person had a will (died testate), the property will be distributed to the beneficiaries listed in the will. If the deceased person did not have a will (died intestate), the property will be distributed to heirs according to California law.
The process can be described as HELL: (1) it’s a Hassle, (2) it’s Expensive, (3) it’s Lengthy, and (4) it’s Litigation. A person would start the probate process after your death by filing a petition in court and seeking appointment. Upon appointment, the person takes charge of your assets, pays your debts and, after receiving court approval, distributes the balance of your estate to your beneficiaries. Probate proceedings are also public. Your estate and the value of your assets – as well as your debts – will become a public record. Probate is expensive. The attorney’s fees and executor’s commissions are based on a statutory fee schedule, a probate will likely cost significantly more than the management and distribution of a comparable estate under a living trust. Probate takes a long time. A probate proceeding will likely take significantly longer than the administration of a living trust. Lastly, probate is litigation – your family is in Court with the judge and attorney.
An estate plan gives you much greater control over who will inherit your assets after your death and removes the burden of probate for your loved ones.